Monday, March 14, 2016

Major Physics Players Gravitate Toward UNO for Einstein Week

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The University of New Orleans Department of Physics has announced that its keynote speaker for Einstein Week 2016 will be Joseph Giaime, who serves as observatory head at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) detector in Livingston, Louisiana. Giaime and team at LIGO recently detected gravitational waves from the collision of a binary pair of black holes a billion light years from earth. This observation, made about a century after the publication of Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity and his prediction of such waves, is a major breakthrough in the field of physics and opens a new era of astronomy.

Giaime’s lecture takes place on Friday, April 1 at 7 p.m. in the University Center’s Sen. Theodore “Ted” M. Hickey ballroom. The lecture is entitled “Hearing Black Holes Collide in Louisiana: LIGO’s Breakthrough Detection of Gravitational Waves.” Doors will open at 6:00 p.m., and a meet-and-greet with Giaime will follow the lecture. The event is free and open to the public. Giaime’s lecture will be geared toward a general audience. One of the goals of this headliner event is to engage people of all ages and backgrounds. Einstein Week, presented by the Department of Physics and the UNO Physics Club, is an annual event that features experiments, demonstrations and guest speakers relevant to the field of physics.

Giaime’s visit continues a tradition of excellence in bringing world-renowned physics scholars to UNO for Einstein Week.  In 2013, the annual event brought theoretical physicist, cosmologist and best-selling author Lawrence Krauss to UNO for a lecture on the origins of the universe and human existence. In 2014, astrophysicist Alexei Filippenko visited UNO to discuss his discoveries regarding dark energy and its role in accelerating the expansion of the universe, discoveries which earned Filippenko the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics and the 2015 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics.

Giaime completed his Ph.D. at MIT in 1995. He worked for three years at JILA, a physical science research institute located on the campus of the University of Colorado, before going back to MIT to spend a year working on the initial LIGO installation. He joined the faculty of LSU in 1999 where he now holds the position professor of physics and astronomy. Giaime was elected a fellow of the American Physical Society in 2009 for his contributions to gravitational wave physics, in particular key aspects of LIGO.